Open source patent protection extended to popular software

Docker, Puppet, LibreOffice, and the Go language are the latest additions to the Open Invention Network's extensive patent nonaggression umbrella

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OIN (the Open Invention Network) has announced important changes to its definition of what constitutes “the Linux system."

Licensing community participants were advised yesterday that, as of June 25, the Linux System Definition will include more than 100 new packages and updated versions of nearly 70 existing ones. This refresh brings Docker, Puppet, Nginx, the Ceph storage system, and the full LibreOffice suite under the OIN umbrella, as well as the Debian packaging tool APT, the Java build manager Maven, the reference implementations of the Go and Lua languages, and a number of other development tools and libraries. Coverage for Red Hat’s OpenShift project will also be significantly enhanced.

The update changes about 5 percent of the definition, which as OIN CEO Keith Bergelt points out, approximately matches the growth of the Linux kernel.

The expansion of the Linux system definition extends its benefits to the open source community well beyond what most people would consider “Linux.” In most cases, the requirement to desist from patent aggression by licensees applies to all platforms where a package is used and not only to Linux. For example, LibreOffice on both Windows and Mac OS benefit from the coverage, and Docker and Puppet have both seen cross-platform adoption.

OIN provides patent defenses for these communities. It’s best-known tool for this is the creation of a large mesh of mutual patent peace agreements among its 1,300 members. All of those members have signed a nonaggression pact, forgoing first use in litigation of any patents they may hold related to Linux System Definition packages. OIN also accumulates dangerous patents defensively for use by its members as long as they honor the nonaggression pact.

Yesterday's announcement of the OIN update sees a return to general updates, in contrast to a recent tilt toward cloud solutions. For the first time it also identifies in some cases who proposed each package for inclusion or update in the Definition. The Go language was proposed by Red Hat rather than by Google, Lua was requested by IBM, and the LibreOffice addition was by community request.

Reportedly, the 2016 update for the definition is already being scoped by OIN’s technical committee, an expert group appointed by OIN members. Every OIN licensee or open source community member can propose changes for inclusion in the next update of the Linux System Definition, which are then reviewed -- conservatively but flexibly -- and wrapped into a proposal brought to OIN’s board. With patent aggression an ever more visible issue, the nonaggression pact and defenses promoted by OIN are becoming more and more relevant.

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